Archives for December 2017

Teaching of the week: for Sunday, Dec 3

Friday, December 1

Be ready! Working with God’s gifts for His mission, and cleaning up the house ready for His return.

Advent remembers when God visited earth, incarnate, as Jesus the Christ, born in Bethlehem; together with the promise that He will come again, unannounced and expecting us to be prepared, ready and following His Way. Every encounter with a holy God, whether the longed for end-times visitation or the strong presence of the Holy Spirit among us, throws into relief our pattern of independence and selfishness and unbelief.

Isaiah asks, who can be saved when we continue to sin against God and to allow actions and attitudes which are bound to anger Him? But there is a promise here that God is looking for a reason to turn from His anger. Those who “remember His ways” and uphold His values, who wait for Him prayerfully, can intercede in such a situation. God is looking for those righteous people.

Asking for His gracious restoration against a backdrop of His righteous anger is the psalmist’s theme in Psalm 80. “We will not turn away from you” is a way of saying that we will turn to Him – the turning of repentance prayer for a season of preparation and reflection.

Jesus’ own words in Mark’s Gospel exhorts us to be watchful as those who cannot know when He will return but are charged with the responsibility to be faithful – going about our assigned tasks as if He was visibly present – and ready for His return. The illustration Jesus uses, of the master leaving the house in the charge of servants to keep in order, is one we can relate to. Of course everything would have to be freshly cleaned and polished for the master’s return. Given the unpredictability of that return, it is an instruction to keep our lives, relationships, church life and mission clean of any polluting influences and in tip-top spiritual condition, just as if notice of the arrival had just been received.

The 1 Corinthians passage reinforces the way the Early Church lived in day by day expectation that Jesus, whose ascension into heaven some had witnessed, would shortly come back in much the same way. Their reminder is our reminder also: they have been given the close support of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts, which are all to a greater or lesser extent, revelatory. Being “kept firm till the end” is an exercise in faith and partnership, however soon or distant the end of the Age turns out to be. We have a mission, and an empowering “enriched in every way’ to carry it out – and be found carrying out when the Master returns. This is a season to reflect on that priority.

All the discussion starters

  1. Should we celebrate good things the Lord has done, answered prayers, delivered situations more often e.g. by sharing testimony stories as part of worship?

  2. What is Advent about? See verses 2 and 4 and 7 and comments.

  3. God’s mercy is based on an unconditional covenant with His people and the prayer “Restore us… make Your face shine on us” contains the “us” of being His people. What distinguishes God’s people?

  4. What kind of prayer (implied, not spelt out) might need to go alongside this prayer to “Restore us…”?

  5. What does keeping watch involve, for us personally or as a group or congregation?

  6. We cannot know the day or time, and many attempts to do so through history have shown themselves to misdirected. However, will the Lord alert his watching, faithful, expectant people to what He is doing?

  7. Having asked (Q.6), whether the Lord will alert His people to His moves, HOW might He do this, and what assumption does this letter make of its readers or hearers (verses 5 and 7)?

  8. To what extent is today’s church ‘enriched’ and ‘not lacking in any spiritual gift’ — or needing to be?

  9. When we meet together, how do we expect the Lord to presence Himself, visibly or otherwise?

 

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